November 2007


The Rev. Christopher Ferguson, representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations, took some time yesterday to channel the spirit of Yasser Arafat while speaking to the General Assembly Committee on the Exercise of the inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (given the UN’s obsession with the Palestinians, I’m not sure why they need a separate committee, but I guess that’s what bureaucracies do). He starts with a pat on the back to the WCC and other “International Civil Society” groups that have kept the heat on for the Palestinians:

 These efforts to keep diplomatic and political attention focus on the Palestinian People and their rights has never been more urgently needed nor more difficult than in this 40th year of the Occupation and the 60th year marking the Resolution on the UN Partition plan and, the 59th year  since the Nakba.

Nakba, it should be noted, is an Arabic word meaning “disaster” or “catastrophe.” The nakba that Ferguson apparently so deeply laments is the founding of Israel in 1948. Nice to know that he starts off his tirade by making clear that the WCC isn’t an honest broker, but a Palestinian shill.

He then refers to the Annapolis meeting, and a letter that WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia sent to trash cans in several world capitals Monday. It was pretty much standard boilerplate; here are the highlights:

As this initiative is set to begin we would like to suggest three criteria for success based on 60 years of international church advocacy for peace in this conflict.

Good faith negotiations are the first criterion….

Second, negotiations must recognize and involve those parties with legitimate interests at stake in the solution to the conflict….

Third, scrupulous adherence to the international rule of law is essential….

Deep, huh? Anyway, Ferguson goes on to attack the “international community’s” unwillingness to step in and make sure that the Palestinians get everything they’re after:

Peace must be built on rights for all and protection for all. The International community has failed and continues to fail to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and world wide in ending the brutal military occupation, ongoing dispossession and securing the right to return. Crucially, this failure also impedes the peace, justice, security and rights that we seek and uphold for Israelis. This failure is an obstacle to regional peace and impacts on world insecurity and disorder.

I’m not sure what it is that the WCC is “seeking” for Israelis, because it sure isn’t “peace, justice, security and right.” By demanding that the UN “secure the right to return,” the WCC is advocating the destruction of the Jewish state by demographics. To all evidence, this is because the WCC believes that Jews, of all the world’s people, have no right to a homeland of their own, no right to self-determination, no right to live without fear from a majority that would love to have the opportunity to make all of the Holy Land Judenrein, as Hamas (winners of the most recent Palestinian elections, remember) demands.

We speak of a just peace based on full and scrupulous implementation of international law because we know that any lasting solution for the Palestinian people is intertwined with Peace and Justice for Israel. We actively seek the wellbeing of both peoples. We insist that both the Palestinian People and Israel have legitimate security concerns. We see that although religion is not at the root of the conflict , religion has become part of the problem and, therefore religious leaders and inter-religious cooperation have to be part of the solution so that Christians, Muslims and Jews  will again  understand one another and live together as neighbors as they have in the past.

Of course, if Jews are going to live in the Holy Land, they will have to accept the return of dhimmitude, as will Christians (though the latter are already experiencing that in the West Bank and Gaza). And to contend that “religion is not at the root of the conflict” is sticking one’s head in the sand. It’s not the only thing at the heart of the matter, but to say it has only “become part of the problem” is to ignore the history of Islam in the region.

Knowing that there is no military solution   this memory filled year has marked a re-invigoration of strong calls by international civil society to re-double efforts for non-violent actions.

Notably The International Coordinating Network on Palestine meeting in Brussels in August of this year launched a strong and resolute plan of action under the title: 60 years is enough! End the dispossession; bring the refugees home! The Call to Action included a commitment to strengthen the global campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) emphasizing that this campaign responds to a call from Palestinian civil society and is in the words of the Call to action” a non-violent effort against Israeli occupation, Apartheid and oppression.” The Network has further committed themselves to a campaign identifying and opposing Israeli policies as violations of the International Covenant Against the Crime of Apartheid.

I’ve made clear what I think of anyone who refers to Israel as an “apartheid state” or as engaging in apartheid. Let’s just say that Rev. Ferguson and his pals in Genva fit that to a tee. I can’t find a Web site for the International Coordinating Network on Palestine, though I did find references to it on a number of far-left sites. Please note that there is no call here for a cessation of violence on the part of Hamas (whose daily rockets attacks on southern Israel are dismissed with scare quotes when Ferguson refers to “‘terrorizing’ Qassam rocket attacks” earlier in his rant).

In June of this year the World Council of Churches convened an International Peace Conference of Churches from around the world in Amman, Jordan. The Amman Call which emerged from that meeting is not meant to be another statement but simply the visible sign of a renewed commitment to “church advocacy for peace, aimed at ending the illegal occupation in accordance with UN resolutions and demonstrate its commitment to inter-religious action for peace and justice that serves all the peoples of the region.”

The meeting launched a new initiative: The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum, dedicated to church action for both Peace Making and Peace Building. In their own way churches around the world are increasingly looking to non-violent methods like Morally Responsible Investment which use economic measures to end the occupation. This initiative will form strong inter religious alliances to break new ground and commit ourselves to what the Amman call named as Costly Solidarity. Civil Society in general and the Churches in particular are showing new vigor faced with the morally repugnant and unjustifiable situation. Costly Solidarity means taking non-violent, constructive actions which will cause discomfort, tensions and serious disagreements.  Such solidarity is an ethical imperative.

No, it isn’t, actually. As long as the WCC keeps acting as though violence against Israel is of no consequence, rather than the driving force behind the continuing occupation and isolation of the Palestinian territories, I certain see no reason why any of the one-sided, counter-productive actions they advocate (which mainly have the result of convincing the Palestinians to stick to their current course) should be joined by anyone who cares about a truly constructive peace.

Oh, and by the way, I wonder if Rev. Ferguson saw this item, and if he or any of his colleagues has any response at all that he’d care to make as public as this speech:

Hamas on Thursday called on the UN to rescind the 1947 decision to partition Palestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs.

The group said in a statement, released on the 60th anniversary of the UN vote, that “Palestine is Arab Islamic land, from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem… there is no room in it for the Jews.”

Regarding the partition decision, Hamas said that “correcting mistakes is nothing to be ashamed of, but prolonging it is exploitation.”

Timberridge Presbyterian Church has indeed voted to leave the PCUSA immediately, becoming an independent Presbyterian church, according to the Layman Online:

The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has approved appointing an administrative commission for a church that went to court over its property rights, but softened language that would have let the panel investigate whether the pastor has attended any New Wineskins Association of Churches “events or conferences.”

Meanwhile, the congregation – Timberridge Presbyterian Church in McDonough, Ga. – has voted to immediately disaffiliate from the Presbyterian Church (USA), now considers itself an independent Presbyterian church and will not cooperate with the administrative commission, The Layman Online has learned. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Matt Allison, also has renounced the jurisdiction of the PCUSA.

The Rev. Ed Albright, executive presbyter of Greater Atlanta Presbytery, said presbytery commissioners changed the wording of the power to “investigate any contact by the pastor or church with the movement called ‘New Wineskins.’ This would include investigating any attendance at New Wineskins events or conferences.” That was changed to, “Grant the powers to determine the issues and causes contributing to the decision of the Timberridge Church to disaffiliate.”

Would that someone on the Committee on Ministry had thought of putting it that way in the first place.

Two hundred and 19 church members, or 62.5 percent of the church’s 350 members, took part in the Nov. 25 vote, sources told The Layman Online. Of those, 205 members or 94 percent voted for immediate disaffiliation and 14 members or 6 percent voted against leaving, the sources said. A separate vote was held on ratifying the election of the church’s session and pastoral staff, the sources said.

Two hundred members or 91 percent voted for ratification and 19 members or 9 percent voted against it, the sources said. On Nov. 27, Allison sent a letter to Albright informing him of the votes’ results and renouncing his jurisdiction in the PCUSA, the sources said. Albright said he was handed the letter at the presbytery’s stated meeting.

Immediate disaffiliation renders the administrative commission’s work moot because Timberridge Church no longer recognizes the authority of the panel or the PCUSA, the sources said. But Albright said while the presbytery accepts Allison’s renunciation of jurisdiction, it still considers his congregation a member of both the presbytery and the PCUSA.

Rev. Allison, of course, has no property for the presbytery to try to hold on to. And there are the 19 to be cared for, assuming they choose not to head out the PCUSA door with the rest of the congregation.

Cardinal Renato Martino, a high Vatican official who has put his foot in his mouth before, does so big time yesterday commenting on the Annapolis conference. According to Reuters:

A senior Vatican cardinal said on Wednesday that all Palestinian refugees had a right to return to their homeland.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican department that formulates refugee policy, made the comment as U.S. President George W. Bush was set to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.

Martino, you may remember, is the guy who claimed that Saddam Hussein was treated “like a cow” when he was captured in 2003, and advocated that the right to try Saddam for his crimes by taken away from Iraq, in part because he worried that the Iraqis might execute the tyrant.

“Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a right to right to [sic] return to their homeland,” Martino said in response to a question about the 44-nation conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Martino did not make clear whether he meant refugees had a right to return to homes in what is now Israel or to an eventual Palestinian state.

Reuters is being disingenuous. The expression “right to return” has a very particular meaning in diplomatese, as Martino (who used to be the Vatican’s representative at the UN) is certainly well aware. The prelate is advocating that the Jewish state commit demographic suicide. Whether he was speaking for anyone but himself I have no idea, but if this in any way represents the thinking of his colleagues, the Vatican can kiss any influence it might have in Israel,and hence in the peace process, good-bye.

The bishops of the United Methodist Church have long thought it part of their calling to tell the federal government what to do. This week, the subject at hand was the Iraq war, and about how we need to get out:

Whereas, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, meeting Nov. 9 at Lake Junaluska, N.C., is committed to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; and

Whereas, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, calls his followers to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9); and

Whereas, “We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ” (Book of Discipline 2004, Par. 165.C); and

Whereas, the cost of the war in Iraq as of Nov. 7, 2007 has been the lives of 3,843 members of the U.S. military, 171 members of the United Kingdom military, 132 members of the other Coalition military, 28,385 U.S. military wounded, and the lives of at least 76,241 Iraqi civilians; and

Whereas the war in Iraq has displaced 2 million persons and forced another 2 million persons into refugee status;

Whereas, every day the war continues more soldiers and innocent civilians are killed with no end in sight to the violence, bloodshed and carnage;

This is where they start to step in it. Their first two statements are fine, the third is a quote from the Discipline (though by no means the whole story, since the relevant section doesn’t establish pacifism as Methodist doctrine or practice), the fourth and fifth a recitation of information that should have been sourced in the case of the Iraqi numbers, but can be granted. The last is a prudential political judgment that purports to see into the future. The bishops have no special talent for either political judgment or prophecy of the futuristic variety, and in fact their belief is very much open to question, given the gains that have been made on the ground in recent months. At this point, they are simply channeling the Democratic Party’s Congressional leadership.

NOW, THEREFORE, THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS calls on the President and Congress of the United States and the leaders of all the nations in the Coalition Forces:

•To begin immediately a safe and full withdrawal of all military personnel from Iraq, with no additional troops deployed;

If they’d read the news before writing this, they’d know that withdrawal of troops is scheduled to begin before the end of the year. The “full withdrawal” is their way of saying, “who cares about the Iraqis?”, who have asked for a continued American presence both to help with the internal struggle and to ward off Iran. The “no additional troops deployed” is their way of saying that their ordination gives them insight into the proper use of military forces that the folks in the Pentagon don’t have. Oh, and I think they missed someone–shouldn’t they also have called on the Iranians to pull their Revolutionary Guard personnel and al-Qaeda to pull their foreign jihadis out of Iraq as well? Or are the people who are actually perpetuating the violence to get a free pass, while those who are trying to prevent it are called upon to get out of Dodge? And here I thought people such as the bishops had such pull with Tehran.

• To declare that there will be no permanent military bases in Iraq;

Why? This strikes me as simple isolationism at work, since there’s no accounting either for what Iraqis want or believe they need in the way of American help.

• To increase support for veterans of the Iraq war and all wars;

I’ve got no qualms about this, though it isn’t at all clear what they mean by it–it certainly sounds good, however.

• To initiate and give strong support to a plan for the reconstruction of Iraq, with high priority given to the humanitarian and social needs of the Iraqi                                 people, such as health care, education and housing;

At this point they are channeling Rowan Williams, who also seems to think that we’ve not done anything to rebuild an Iraqi society shattered by 30 years of totalitarianism. We have actually poured almost $30 billion into Iraq, not all of it well-used certainly (this is, after all, the federal government we’re talking about), but hardly a drop in the bucket, and there’s more coming. Of course, one could argue that there hasn’t been much of a plan for the rebuilding, so detailed proposals rather than planks from a political platform might be helpful.

FURTHER, THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS calls United Methodist people throughout the world:

• To pray for peace and to have regular prayer vigils for congregations and communities;

• To care for all impacted by the war, including combatants and noncombatants by honoring the dead, healing the wounded and calling for the end of             the war;

One doesn’t “honor the dead” by running out on the job before it’s been finished. If the bishops really wanted to honor them, they would not be calling for their sacrifices to have been in vain. Instead, they might be calling for the freedom and safety of the Iraqi people to be secured, their political processes respected, and their country not abandoned to the depredations of Iran and its terrorist allies, as we are in the process of doing.

        • To be peacemakers by word and deed that we may be called the children of God.

And to be peacemakers in a fallen world sometimes requires that arms be taken up by the civil authorities. If the bishops wish to call United Methodists to pacifism, that is certainly their right, and I would support them doing so as a witness to the peace that passes all understanding that is the world’s ultimate hope. But if they want to be Quakers in fancy robes, calling on United Methodists to take up pacifism as a political strategy, I suspect they will be–and should be–awfully lonely in their “prophetic” stance.

A PCUSA congregation in Georgia has gone to court over its property. Now, the presbytery is looking to investigate its pastor, according to the Layman Online:

The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta today will consider a recommendation to appoint an administrative commission for a congregation that has gone to court over its property rights and to investigate whether the pastor has been “upholding his ordination vows” – including whether he has attended any New Wineskins Association of Churches “events or conferences.”

The recommendation targets Timberridge Presbyterian Church in McDonough, Ga., and its pastor, the Rev. Matt Allison.

On Oct. 3, according to the commissioners’ handbook posted on the presbytery’s Web site, the Superior Court of Henry County granted a temporary restraining order to Timberridge Presbyterian Church “essentially enjoining the presbytery from taking any action to place a cloud on the title to the property, to claim ownership or control of the church property, to change the locks to the property, or otherwise violating the church’s property rights.”

In its background report, the committee on ministry stated that the presbytery was notified Sept. 7 that it was being sued by the congregation “over the denomination’s property trust clause.” The committee on ministry stated that, prior to the notification, “the church had made no attempt to discuss their concerns with the presbytery.”

In response to a request from Timberridge Presbyterian Church for dialogue which, according to the committee on ministry’s background report, “came at the time that the suit was filed,” the committee on ministry “appointed a three-member review team to engage in dialogue” with the church.

The background report states that, “after the team made contact with the pastor of Timberridge Church to pursue dialogue, the team was rebuffed and was told that discussion would happen through its lawyer.”

The report doesn’t give any information about what might have transpired before the suit was filed, and the church’s Web site doesn’t give any information that I could find about the dispute. This sounds like a pre-emptive strike to me–going to court to get a ruling before the presbytery has a chance to mobilize its resources. It’s not a tactic I like–I think it violates Paul’s directive in 1 Corinthians 6, for one thing, and sins against charity by assuming bad intent on the part of a presbytery (which is not to say that the church doesn’t have reason to believe it does; they may or may not, but in either case should give the presbytery the opportunity to show its hand first). But again, the presbytery’s report isn’t likely to have all the details one would need to make a reasonable assessment of the situation.

The committee on ministry’s background report stated that the presbytery’s executive presbyter, Ed Albright, “upon returning from sabbatical, contacted the pastor of Timberridge Church, Matt Allison, for discussion, dialogue and information as to how he was upholding his ordination vows in light of the lawsuit.”

Albright met with Allison on Oct. 24, the committee on ministry’s background report stated, and, in Albright’s “opinion, Matt could not point to any ways in which he upheld his ordination vows in this matter.”

Based on those events, according to the background report, the committee on ministry is recommending that the presbytery form an administrative commission “in order to investigate the role of the ordained leadership in living out their ordination vows and their role in working with the church to prevent/promote schism.”

Here’s what the presbytery handbook for its November 27 meeting says about the commission that would investigate Pastor Allison and other leaders at Timberridge:

The Committee on Ministry recommends to the Presbytery, based on the above events, that an Administrative Commission be formed for the Timberridge Presbyterian Church in order to investigate the role of the ordained leadership in living out their ordination vows and their role in working with the Church to prevent/promote schism. This commission would have the following powers:

· Obtain and review the minutes of session, the trustees as well as the minutes of congregational meetings.
· Obtain and review any correspondence from the session, the trustees, and the pastor to the congregation.
· Obtain and review any correspondence between any of the above mentioned bodies.
· Investigate any contact by the pastor or church with the movement called “New Wine Skins.” This would include investigating any attendance at New Wine Skins events or conferences.
· Obtain an accurate record of the membership rolls of the church.
· The power to remove the pastor and any other ordained leadership, if deemed appropriate, with special attention to following the guidelines as outlined in G-9.0505 (b).
· Communicate with members of the congregation in whatever fashion that the commission deems appropriate. Examples are: hearings, focus groups, subcommittee meetings.
· Grant the authority to call for congregational meetings and session meetings.

It’s the part about investigating contact with the New Wineskins Association that’s really interesting. If this passes, it would be the presbytery’s way of saying that any “contact” with New Wineskins would be considered potentially actionable against a pastor. Keep in mind that lots of NWA churches have not sought to leave PCUSA, and that lots probably won’t in the future, but are instead working to bring the denomination back to its biblical and Reformed roots. But to the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, NWA is apparently a subversive organization that must be shunned under all circumstances. Do they really think that this kind of ham-handed approach is going to stop churches from working for reform, or from seeking to leave if that’s what they believe they are called to? Or is it not more likely to send the message that they want to come down hard on anyone stepping out of line, thus increasing the likelihood that evangelical congregations are going to feel that there is no place left for them in PCUSA?

UPDATE: An elder at Timberridge sent a letter to the Layman Online that was published today. In part, it reads:

I don’t believe Timberridge wants to be a forerunner for some of the other 109 churches under Atlanta Presbytery that are sitting back watching and waiting to see how it all turns out. When we voted this past Sunday to disaffiliate from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, we all knew the consequences. We knew we could lose everything we’ve built and invested in. We would have never voted to leave had we not been forced into a corner by the actions and attitude of the Atlanta Presbytery.

The 200-plus members who voted together are Timberridge Church, whether we’re in that same building or not. We don’t know where we’ll meet if the court decision goes against us, but we’ll meet somewhere. God will provide that for us if need be.

(Hat tip: Jim from PCUSAlist.)

Three leaders of the National Council of Churches, operating on the unproven assumption that anyone in the upper reaches of the government cares what they think, have written to President Bush telling him what needs to be done at the Middle East conference in Annapolis this week. Here’s the money quote:

We know that this conference will not be able to address all issues that pertain to this conflict, such as refugees, settlements, and final borders. Nevertheless, we do know that this conference can reaffirm the goals and principles that are central to a lasting peace: an end to the Occupation, and a viable two-state solution; a renunciation of violence by all parties and an affirmation of the rights and security concerns of both Israelis and Palestinians; and a shared Jerusalem, which can one day be a symbol of the peace that is central to the faith of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. [Emphasis added.]

Here’s what I want to know: when did “a shared Jerusalem” become a central goal and principle in any agreement? Unlike the other items mentioned here (ending the occupation, two states, the end of violence, security guarantees), which Israel recognizes must be part of any final accord, the sharing of Jerusalem has never been agreed to even in principle by Israel. I’ve noticed this pattern over and over again in the public pronouncements of the NCC and its creature Churches for Middle East Peace–they simply assume, because they think something needs to be part of a peace deal, that everyone agrees to it, then they repeat it endlessly as if it were so. (I’ve noted them doing it here, here, here, here, here.) Seeing it turn up here once again makes me wonder: are these people simply delusional, or is there some reason why they keep saying these silly things?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is losing the battle to keep the Anglican Communion together, ventures outside his field of competence in an interview with Emel, a Muslim magazine in the UK. Among his observations:

I ask him if America has lost the moral high ground since September 11th, and his answer is simple: “Yes.” There is no mitigation. He has obviously thought through what he feels the US should do now to recover, “A generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence. All these things would help.”

He apparently is unaware of the billions of dollars that have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 and 2002, respectively. He doesn’t specify what he means by “economic exploitation,” but I would guess he means we should stop buying $100 a barrel oil from Iraq–how that would improve that nation’s economy is a mystery to me (and I have no earthly idea what he’s talking about regarding Afghanistan). As for demilitarization, once he persuades al-Qaeda and the Taliban to lay down their arms, I have no doubt that we will be happy to leave. In the meantime, I can’t help but ask whether he thinks that Afghans would be better off under the Taliban, or if he thinks Iraqis are ready to handle their own security, and if he would be willing to put his opinion up against that of David Petraeus.

He describes violence as “a quick discharge of frustration. It serves you. It does not serve the situation. Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.”

I’m sure the peoples of Europe freed by the violence of the British and American armies in World War II would have a nit to pick with this. For that matter, does he really think that the Afghan and Iraqi actions were really just about “temporary release” (we’re still there, after all)? Does he really think that these subject people would have been better off in the long run with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and his Baathist thugs in charge? Is he really that fatuous?

On the Iraq war he wants to “keep before government and others the great question of how you can actually contribute to a responsible civil society in a context where you’ve undermined most of the foundations on which that society can be built.”

Let’s see: what has been done just in Iraq to rebuild a “responsible civil society”? 1) A murderous, totalitarian regime that invaded two other countries–resulting in over a million deaths–squandered billions on arms and luxuries for elites, used chemical weapons and environmental destruction against the ethnic minority Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens in a 20+ year reign of terror was overthrown. 2) Elections have been held, an ethnically representative government elected, and a constitution written. 3) Large areas of the country have been pacified and democratic local government instituted. 4) Billions have been poured into rebuilding an infrastructure shattered by decades of war and neglect. 5) Put military and police forces on a footing where they protect rather than terrorize the population. There are others, and none of these are finished by any means, but has Rowan Williams been in a coma for the last several years, and just completely unaware of these efforts? Or is he playing the utopian game of claiming that US and UK efforts have been worthless because they didn’t turn Iraq into paradise overnight and with no cost?

His attention next moves to the Holy Land:

He condemns the wall which cuts in half that most special of places where the Christian narrative says Christ was born. “Whatever justification given for the existence of the wall, the human cost is colossal. We saw that for ourselves.”

“Whatever the justification.” Savor that for a moment. The justification is that terrorists were using Bethlehem as one of the staging points for attacks into Israel, particularly Jerusalem, that killed hundreds of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, before the wall was built. The wall separates, but it hurts no one, unlike suicide bombs. But the cost in lives in Israel is nothing compared to some Palestinians losing access to their olive trees. I wish the latter were not effected in that way, but comparing their economic hardship to the lives that the wall unquestionably saves is profoundly immoral.

I ask the Archbishop about the relationship of modern Christians to the Holy Land and he paints a complex picture. “At one end of the spectrum you have Christian Zionism which is very interested in the Holy Land in ways which I find very strange, and not at all easy to accept. At the other end of the spectrum you have Christians for whom the Holy Land is some distant theme park.” He does however feel that a “growing number of Christians have become aware of the reality of the situation on the ground” and journeys there have helped “expose their minds and hearts to the realities.”

So, you have loony apocalypticists, religious tourists, and those who are pro-Palestinian. In the Archbishop’s world, there’s apparently no room for those who support Israel because 1) it’s a Western democracy; 2) it’s a staunch all of the US and UK; 3) it’s a haven of safety for people whom many nations have oppressed and expelled, including Britain; 4) it’s home to the freest Arab population in the Middle East; 5) it’s been the object of multiple invasions and is the object of continuing attacks; 6) insert your favorite reason.

Williams then moves to America:

“We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment.” But, he propounds, “It is not accumulating territory; it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” Far from seeing this positively, he describes it as “the worst of all worlds,” saying, “it is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly that’s what the British Empire did – in India for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example.”

Earlier in the article he was complaining because America is still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here he contends that we blew things up in those countries and then moved on and left the locals to fix things. Aside from the colossal ignorance of such a statement, one has to wonder if he’s even listening to himself. And someone who will attack America’s conduct in the Middle East on the grounds that the British Empire–with its centuries-long subjugation of the Irish; its treatment of aborigines in Australia; its exploitation of African natural resources; its oppression of India; its artificial carving up of the Middle East and Africa into states without cohesion or even rational basis; its legacy of failed states, military dictatorships and assorted tyrannies in its former imperial possessions, etc.–was preferable because it “poured energy and resources” into its colonialist possessions has got brass so shiny as to be blinding.

There’s more, but that’s really all I feel like getting into. Read it all, if you dare.

(Via Stand Firm.)

UPDATE: The U.S. Embassy in London has responded to Williams’ diatribe, according to the BBC:

But, in a statement, the US Embassy in London rejected the archbishop’s claims that the US did not help rebuild countries with extra resources.

It said the US was “the largest donor of aid of any country in the world” and that “billions of dollars of financial, technical, and medical assistance” had been given to the people of Iraq.

“In addition, President Bush has doubled US overseas development assistance and almost tripled our aid to Africa,” the statement continued.

“We have given $15 billion (£7.3 billion) over the last five years to prevent and treat HIV/Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.”

It added that the US was also the “largest single donor to the welfare of Palestinian refugees”.

I don’t suppose that will pass muster at Lambeth Palace, but it’s OK for a start.

I’m no scientist, and as fascinated by cosmology as I am I would normally be the last to wade in on a matter of quantum mechanics. But a story from the London Telegraph sounds like scientific speculation run amok to me:

Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our activities may be shortening the life of the universe too.

The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

Right off there’s a problem, which is that the cosmos doesn’t care about quantum theory. The latter is a human attempt to explain observable and mathematical phenomena,and doesn’t exist anywhere exist inside human skulls. It can be modified, confirmed, or thrown out (much as the “steady state” theory of the universe was forty years ago), and the cosmos isn’t effected one bit. So to speak in terms of the “consequences” of quantum theory for the universe is to get things exactly backward, in my humble opinion.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that we change things simply by looking at them and theorists have puzzled over the implications for years.

The reference to philosophers is probably a dead giveaway that something is wrong here.

They often illustrate their concerns about what the theory means with boggling mind experiments, notably Schrodinger’s cat in which, thanks to a fancy experimental set up, the moggy is both alive and dead until someone decides to look, when it either carries on living, or dies. That is, by one interpretation (by another, the universe splits into two, one with a live cat and one with a dead one.)

I’ve tried for years to wrap my mind around the Schrodinger’s cat idea, and it still bothers me. As well it should–the thought experiment was apparently designed to show the flaws in one particular interpretation of quantum mechanics, not to support it. But anyway…

New Scientist reports a worrying new variant as the cosmologists claim that astronomers may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, a mysterious anti gravity force which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.

The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end. “Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe,” Prof Krauss tells New Scientist.

And this is where things get really weird. What these guys seem to be telling us is that dark energy–a theoretical, unobserved form of energy left over from the Big Bang that is said to account for 74% of the “critical density” of the universe–is somehow changed simply by virtue of the fact that sentient beings have conceived of it. Dark energy has not been “detected,” mind you–it’s existence is an extrapolation from observable effects of stars that go supernova. It’s existence is thought necessary in order to explain other, more concrete aspects of cosmology. And yet, by the fact that people have done the theorizing necessary to explain these phenomena, we have tripped some kind of cosmic reset button and will cause the universe to end sooner than previously expected (with any luck at all, it will be before Britney Spears can get another DUI, because I just don’t want to go through the media coverage of that cosmic event).

I’m sorry. I can’t even conceive of how that could possibly make sense in the real world, the world outside of Krauss and Dent’s brains. The act of observation has to have its limits in the effects it can have on the real world. I can’t make the Washington Monument taller or shorter by looking at it. To think human beings can have a material effect on the universe simply by observing and theorizing about it strikes me as the height of anthropocentric solipsism.

And then there’s the theological implication–what if there really is Someone who is observing all things at once? Wouldn’t that put a kink in their colon!

Via the Daily Mail of the UK comes a touching story of environmental consciousness so great that it will sacrifice the lives of others for the sake of the planet:

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers – and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible “mistake” of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni – who works for an environmental charity – “relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery.

Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

Even in a country in the grips of socialized medicine, people like Toni always seem to get their way. But she had a good reason, after all:

“Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” says Toni, 35.

“Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.”

Do you suppose it ever occurs to people like Toni that she uses food, water, land, fossil fuels, and trees, and that she produces rubbish (other than her ideology, of course), pollution, greenhouse gases, and contributes to the problem of over-population? Does it ever occur to Toni that, as an adult, she contributes far more to planetary degradation than an infant would, and that the really noble sacrifice to make to further the cause of Mother Earth’s survival would have been for her to have her child and then kill herself? Or maybe she should have just killed herself while she was pregnant and positively reduced the amount of garbage she would produce in the course of a lifetime?

Just kidding, of course. Toni’s life is sacred as well as the child she sacrificed to Gaia. I certainly wouldn’t want her to do anything to harm herself. But she might think about cutting down on the polluting travel she and her husband indulge in:

“I’ve never doubted that I made the right decision. Ed and I married in September 2002, and have a much nicer lifestyle as a result of not having children.

“We love walking and hiking, and we often go away for weekends.

“Every year, we also take a nice holiday – we’ve just come back from South Africa.

“We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint and combating over-population.

“My only frustration is that other people are unable to accept my decision.”

Maybe that’s because they listen to you and realize that you’re the most selfish woman on the planet. She doesn’t eat meat and has killed an unborn child, so that means she can give herself permission to get on one of the most polluting forms of transportation known to man. Heaven forbid she give life to another being who has just as much right to muck up the planet as she does. But don’t you dare get in the way of her taking that jet so she can bop around South Africa or wherever the environmentally conscious are hobnobbing this year.

There’s another nominee for the Monty Python Memorial Twit of the Year in the same article, but I don’t think my stomach can take it. Feel free if you have a stronger tolerance for idiocy than I do.

(Via Hot Air and Weasel Zippers.)

psalm100.gif

(Psalm 100 in Farsi, the language of Iran.)

Psalm 100: English Standard Version

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all!

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